In a recent email, Don May took several shots at me and my integrity. I expected this and similar attacks from Saunderson’s followers – and May is an admitted supporter of Brian Saunderson. I won’t bother to respond to his innuendo or unfounded allegations. However, I want to address one thing May said that is correct: he accused me of having a,
…desire to go back to our former governments of the past.
Leaving aside the obvious tautology (what else could a former government be but of the past?), he’s right: I do want to see Collingwood council return to the ethical, open, honest, publicly-engaged and moral government we had before Brian Saunderson and his cabal got elected. Yes, I want to see a council like the many we had before: one that the public trusted and that put the greater good above their own entitlements.
This term Saunderson and his minions have:
- Put up roadblocks to stop the hospital’s much-needed redevelopment after meeting behind closed doors four times, and hired a high-priced lawyer and PR consultant to chastise the hospital board in public;
- Met behind closed doors almost 50 times to decide to sell our public utility without once ever coming into the open to explain why, to present a business case for the sale or to ask for public input;
- Met behind closed doors almost 20 times to decide to sell our publicly owned airport without once ever coming into the open to explain why, to present a business case for the sale or to ask for public input;
- Raised our taxes four times while giving themselves a pay raise each time;
- Raised our town’s debt;
- Quadrupled the cost of the town’s IT services, hired three new staff and plan to hire two more for that department, plus spend millions to upgrade the system;
- Launched Saunderson’s Vindictive Judicial Inquiry which will cost taxpayers $2 to $6 million and maybe more simply to satisfy Saunderson’s personal vendettas;
- Voted an unlimited expense account for Kathy Jeffrey to fly around the country wining and dine at taxpayer expense pursuing her personal political goals.
So it’s little wonder any thoughtful person would want to return to the open, accountable and engaged governments of the past.
But May is entitled to his opinions and if he prefers the Putin-esque style of Saunderson, he’s allowed to do so. I just hope that you, dear reader, are somewhat more politically savvy and don’t want to continue the reign of secrecy, deception, public betrayal and abuse of power we’ve had these past four years.
There have been no initiatives from this council about pressing issues and challenges that concerned municipal leaders across the province grapple to meet: lowering costs and taxes, housing, alternate transit, parking, alternate energy for municipal facilities, climate change, water and wastewater infrastructure, public safety, retaining and attracting industry, cycling infrastructure, sustainable development and more. We haven’t even had discussions about these things at the council table. Collingwood was once a leader in many areas; now we’re not even a follower. Our municipal wheels are spinning but we’re not going anywhere.
What have we achieved from Saundersons’ deceptive, secretive, self-entitled government that Don May endorses? Our debt and out expenses are spiralling out of control, our municipal neighbours despise us, our civic reputation is in tatters, the local medical community holds town hall in contempt, we’ve sold public assets without any public input, taxes are skyrocketing, our residents are fed up and feel betrayed by their leaders.
Is that really what you want to continue? If so, then follow May’s lead and vote for Saunderson and his minions. If not, I’m one of your choices for a return to principled, ethical governance.
No, Don, I’m not trying to create a diversion with my comments: I want people to read and discuss and share them because that engages the public. I want these issues out in the open where they belong, not lurking behind those closed doors Saunderson and his cabal love. I want people to question what’s being done on their behalf and to hold their politicians accountable.
I’ve been the sole voice of criticism about this council and their underhanded ways since they took office (the local media having retreated from that role years back). I keep the public informed and offer a perspective not shaped by those protecting their own power. I will continue to defend democracy and oppose secrecy even if not elected. When elected, I will be the staunchest supporter of open and accountable democracy at the council table.
Let me close with a quote for Don from Michel de Montaigne, essay 27 (That it is madness to judge the true and false from our own capacities, trans. by M. A. Screech, Penguin Books, 2003):
It is not, perhaps, without good reason, that we attribute to simple-mindedness and to ignorance the readiness to be convinced: for I was once taught that a belief is like an impression stamped on our soul: the softer and less resisting the soul, the easier it is to print anything on it.